Richard III and Twelfth Night on Broadway: A Review

Richard III and Twelfth Night are staged under "original practices."

Richard III and Twelfth Night are staged under “original practices.”

At the Belasco Theatre, New Yorkers are being treated to an all-too-rare opportunity to see Shakespeare’s Richard III and Twelfth Night performed under the “original practices” rubric favored at the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London.

All costumes are authentically Elizabethan, meaning no zippers, no Velcro, no artificial anything. The sets are period as well; in this case mimicking a university dining hall where Shakespeare’s troupe sometimes performed with a minimum of props and scenery. Some seats are on stage recreating the intimacy of The Globe. And, of course, all the female roles are played by men.

If the historical recreation was all there was to these two productions it would probably be worth the price of admission. Fortunately there is much more on offer.

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Twelfth Night at Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Des McAnuff is a wildly inventive director and much, perhaps too much, of that inventiveness is on display in his production Twelfth Night, which is wowing Stratford Shakespeare Festival audiences at the Festival Theatre.

Set against the backdrop of an enormous smashed mirror, McAnuff’s delirious Illyria is home to a mismatched menagerie of types and tropes that seem to have been stitched together from several plays and periods. By switching the first two scenes of the play, McAnuff seems to be alerting us from the beginning that this will not be your father’s Twelfth Night.

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